Margo Crawford/ Wave Productivity

THIS GUEST OPINION PIECE BY: Margo Crawford is a SouthCoast based Productivity Coach with Wave Productivity. If you are struggling to stay focused, organized and productive at work during the COVID-19 outbreak, you are not alone. Margo works with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and business professionals to help them get more focused, organized and productive in their workplace. Set up a consultation today or email margo@waveproductivity.com.


Working from home can be distracting. The COVID-19 pandemic is distracting. We are all learning new ways to work during times like these. There is so much to do and both your work and home life pull you in different directions.

Here is a quick and easy way to stay focused. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. You use a timer to stay focused and get things done.

The Pomodoro Technique was started by Francisco Cirillo, who struggled with his college course work. It was drudgery to sit and study for all the college classes he was taking. He was on the verge of failing and stumbled on a technique that worked for him. If he set his timer for just 25 minutes, he could sit, focus, and work. He found if he set the timer four times and took breaks in between, he could get much more done. That’s how the Pomodoro Technique got started.

Cirillo had a timer, in the shape of a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato). Grab your timer and let’s get to work.

  • First, decide on a task that you want to work on.
  • Next set your timer for 25 minutes.
  • Focus for the next 25 minutes on the task you designated as important.
  • When the timer goes off, take a three to five-minute break.
  • Set the timer again for another 25 minutes and continue to work. Do this four times.
  • After four 25-minute "pomodoros" take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

This method is in line with how our brains work. It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to "ramp up" in concentration. Then we can work for about 90 minutes in total. After 90 minutes we begin to lose concentration, so it’s best to take a break.

When you set the timer and wind it up, you are setting your intention for the work you want to do. As you hear the ticking of the timer it reminds you that you are on task and to complete the task. When the timer rings, it’s a signal-time to take a break!

Some taskmasters will say if you start the timer and are interrupted that you reset the timer again. Some say interruptions are fine. Others suggest documenting what you work on and track your time. You can get a sense of accomplishment when you track the actions you’ve tackled with each Pomodoro. Others say it’s helpful to track other ideas and thoughts that come into your head by writing them down and get back to the task at hand. There are a few ways that you can handle the Pomodoro Technique. Like many productivity techniques, these are guidelines, not hard rules.

Yes, they have an app for that. Check out these apps Pomodoro Time Pro or try Focus Booster. My favorite is Repeat Timer; it’s simple to use. There is both a free and paid version. You can set several intervals of time, this allows you to so jump into work once the timer goes off and manage breaks.

Some people are not sure what to do during breaks. Here is a short list:

  • Do smaller chores around the house. Load or unload the dishwasher. Switch the laundry. Check on the children and get them set up for the next activity.
  • Take a short walk or get outside for fresh air.
  • Stretch. Here are some stretches from Wave Productivity's Pinterest board that you can do at your desk.
  • Do nothing. Just relax.
  • Meditate and stay calm.
  • Grab a glass of water. Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise.

Try the Pomodoro Technique and find out what works best for you. In using this method, you will gain a sense of control, focus, and accomplishment.

Editor's Note: 'SouthCoast Voices' is a series of guest opinions from newsmakers and other people across the region, on relevant issues that directly impact the people of Greater New Bedford and the surrounding communities. The opinions are solely those of the author. If you are interested in contributing, please contact tim@wbsm.com for more information.